Jesse Johnson-US PRESSWIRE
Hunting Torii Hunter: Gerontological baseball at its finest. The Yankees might get another old fogey to sit by the fireside. Is it a good idea?
Man, do I have mixed feelings about this. Hunter had a great year, can still field a corner if not center field, and is considered a great clubhouse guy. He is also 37 years old now. While he will only command a one- or two-year deal due to his age, I am frustrated by the idea that the Yankees could once again acquire a stopgap player to hold a place for young players that might never arrive.
I am also inherently distrustful of players who (a) have a peak year at 36 -- there is nowhere to go but down -- and in particular of hitters who have too much of their value tied up in batting average. Hunter is not a huge slugger and he generally doesn't walk much, so he has to post a good batting average to be productive. This year, aided by a sure-to-regress .389 BABIP, that's what he did. Without that, you have the guy the Angels had in 2011: .262/.336/.429. For a right fielder that's no better than an average performance. Sure, it will play up in Yankee Stadium, but so would anyone else, so that shouldn't be a factor.
And, of course, he could just get old, or brittle, or both. Hunter has generally been durable, but as we saw this year, when you get to players of this age, things just happen.
I'm spitting into the wind, of course; the Yankees have to sign someone to play right field because there aren't any prospects handy. Giving Nick Swisher an expensive long-term deal is probably a bad idea. Signing a vet like Hunter limits the team's exposure. It's just disappointing to see another rent-a-player, another guy who earned his stardom and had his best years elsewhere, another player who is going to quickly pass through and be gone.
Sure, the Yankees give you a lot of wins, but increasingly they don't give you players you can really adopt and root for. They're successful doing it their way, but emotional attachment is the other side of the story. Once Derek Jeter, Andy Pettitte, and Mariano Rivera are gone, they might not service that side at all. It will just be three more guys who used to wear other jerseys, not Yankees in any organic sense.